Tuesday 30th November 2010
From our arrival in St. Kitts at before 7.00 a.m., we liked the look of our new destination. Across the bay, green volcanic hills loomed through the early morning mist.
We went for breakfast and were suddenly joined by a block of flats mooring next to us in the harbour – not just one but three blocks in length – the most enormous cruise liner that we think we have seen.
Due to Adrian packing 2 odd sandals, rather than a pair, we spent part of the morning trying to find suitable footwear in the local shops. These shops were in part a new development on reclaimed land, Port Zante, immediately adjacent to our mooring and part, the original town of Bassterre. Independence Square, with its surrounding older buildings, was particularly attractive.
In the afternoon we embarked on an unusual tour of the island – on a sugarcane train. St. Kitts had been a major sugar producer for centuries but a change in EU policy caused the collapse of this industry about seven years ago. In an enterprising manner, the old railway has been replaced with slightly wider gauge rails and has become a major tourist attraction. Combined with a minibus trip, it enables a complete circuit of the island around the central volcano, Mt. Liamuiga (about 3 ½ thousand feet).
The island is very attractive, as is the climate. However, we could see the influence of both a degree of poverty and also past hurricanes. A fair amount of the housing was of a very basic standard and there were quite a number of buildings that had been abandoned due to damage. The island used to support over 60 sugar plantations, each with its sugar mill and factory chimney. The buildings are now derelict and the sugarcane just grows wild. Tourism has replaced the industry as the most important income producer of this small country. The island is about 23 miles long by 5 miles and has a population of 40,000 people and 80,000 monkeys.